Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Travel continued: Its not the destination, its the journey...

Getting to and from a destination is part of the fun of going by train. On the return leg yesterday from Lille to Waterloo it was a little more interesting than normal. It sort of went like this:
  1. Two small bottles of Bordeaux had certainly made me comfortable and relaxed as we went into the Euro Tunnel. It also took its toll on the bladder.
  2. Making my way to the bathroom I noticed I was being watched. When one is getting checked out it is always worth checking back.
  3. After leaving the bathroom I got the surprise of my life to see that he was right outside.
  4. At this point I explained to my colleagues at work (for the sake of brevity among other things) that I struck up a conversation, but that wasn't the case. Not expecting anyone outside the bathroom as I rolled back the door I was a tad startled and retreated back to my seat. Afterall, there is no mile-high club on a high speed train surely... But returning to my seat I did position myself so I had a full view of the car - and could be seen from key vantage points...
  5. After he returned to his seat there was enough eyes-over-the-top-of-the-large-comfy-train-seats to make it worth the while for him to get up and walk all the way to the end of the car to pick up a complimentary newspaper - which just so happened to be right behind my seat.
  6. Realising that opportunity wasn't knocking it was practically kicking down the door I turned off the iPOD and went over to the newspapers as well... This time a conversation ensued. All the way from somewhere in Kent to Waterloo.
  7. Much witty repartee ensued. The Bordeaux probably helped me anyway... His name as A and he had taken his parents to Bruges and I told him I was traveling solo from Lyon for the fun of it. He gave me his card and we exchanged numbers
Whatever happens next is anybody's guess but it did confirm that traveling solo can have its rewards. Sure it is supposed to be good confidence building and all that sort of thing, but even better is that whether it is getting interesting service at a restaurant or meeting strangers on a train you just never know what Dame Fortune has in store...

And the story continues with dinner and a play tomorrow night...

Repartee on the Eurostar

A: So where in London do you live?
Paul: In the Bloomsbury area...
A: Oh you know what they say about people who live in Bloomsbury. They live in squares and love all around.
Paul: Well just as well I don't live in a square...

Scenes from Lyon - Outside Hotel De Ville Saturday morning. It was Non, non et non. Pretty much like the result on Sunday really. Later that day a Oui poster was put up over some of them. It was a simple poster of a botox babe with European Union stars in her eyes. A little disturbing actually. It was too little too late and too unappealing to sway anyone's opinion... Posted by Hello

Scenes from Lyon Sunday 21:10. Boats at the Parc De La Tete D'Or.  Posted by Hello
Travel: Things to do in Lyon

With the Lyon City Card you get free entry to many museums and galleries in Lyon. So over two days:
  • I saw Musée des Beaux Arts - great exhibition of art and antiquities and there wasn't the crowds so you could enjoy the Picassos and Reniors and Manets without fighting your way through the crowds. Of course this was Sunday morning the morning after the big football celebration that took place outside its doors so maybe people were a little tired.
  • Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine, which is next to the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. Lyon was the centre of Gallic Roman Empire so there was plenty of ruins, mosaics and artefacts on display. I later caught a rehearsal at the amphitheatre for a play that was opening this week...
  • Musée Des Tissues and Musée des Arts Decoratifs. This was a quick Sunday trip but was well worth it to see (among other things) Napoleon and Josephine's bed that they used when they were in Lyon. The woman at the door was very helpful and didn't want me to leave even though I was running late to see the Musée des Beaux Arts before the Opera. I suspected it was in part because I was the only solo male here in a sea of women and the occasional husband dragged kicking and screaming. The collection reminded me of the V&A collection but on a smaller and distinctly French flavour.
  • Musée Lumiere which was on the site of the Lumiere Brothers factory and housed in the gorgeous art nouveau villa they lived in.
Travel: Theatre in Lyon

Saturday night's jazz concert was sold out so I went to Sunday afternoon's opera at the Opera National de Lyon which was Leos Janacek's "The Makropoulos Case". It was just as well. I was not familiar with Janacek's work but the music was so rich and dramatic that it is easy to become a fan overnight. The central role of a 300 year woman (its opera, don't ask) is also such a fantastic role for a strong dramatic soprano and Anja Silja didn't disappoint... Having played it at Glyndebourne and other places previously her performance drew a 10 minute applause.

The opera house itself is an interesting creation as well. Irenovatedovated in the early nineties and has a modern black and red and stainless steel interior while keeping the old facade of a much earlier structure. The all black can be a bit jarring at times (especially in the mens room as you don't quite know what you are looking at or walking into) but it is so French.

Travel: Eating in Lyon - Bouchons

But it wasn't all museums and arts... In between one has to eat and so I went to a couple of Bouchons while I was there. They provide set menu of gorgeousorgous things to eat and washed down with a Bordeaux or Beaujolais (from just up the road) it is a sensible dining experience.

The second night I went to a gay one, and after a long walk in the Parc de la Tete D'or, an opera and all those museums I was a little too exhausted to pronounce French in any comprehensible way. The chef took pity on me and (fortunately) spoke English very well. After the meal he grabbed my arm rather forcibly and told me, "I am sorry that I was so busy I didn't have time to talk to you." I told him that was okay but started to think... "hmm that was a strong and very intensive grip for somebody who is quite attractive". He looked me in the eye and told me that he wasn't French but Croatian and that I should go there as I would like it. I started to wonder if it wasn't such a busy night and if he wasn't working the place alone just what would my dining experience have ended up being at 23:20 as I began to leave... Oh well...

Monday, May 30, 2005

Things to do in Lyon on a Saturday. I would pick the weekend that Lyon wins the French Football Championships for the fourth time. It is 01:11 and the team had arrived back in Lyon for a small welcome by its citizens in the Place des Terreaux. The people were friendly and in a rather jovial mood. At the time the team song was catchy too...  Posted by Hello
Travel: Getting to Lyon

Spent the bank holiday weekend out of London - went to Lyon by Eurostar and TGV. That meant that half the fun was getting there. Well at 6-8 hours you would want it to be fun. I am typing this on the return leg from Paris Nord to Lille Flanders on the TGV to pass the time by. I have seen this part of the countryside before.

Friday's journey involved leaving London at 14:00 and making a connection at Lille and arriving at Lyon around 9pm - enough time for dinner at a sensible bouchon - or something like that.

It was a hot day, and so was the Eurostar as it left Waterloo. In the section I was travelling there was an American businessman, a woman from Manchester, a French businessman and myself. Shortly after leaving London the woman started complaining about the heat. It was over 30 degrees in London Friday so when that happens the city becomes a sauna anyway... She could speak French so the crew were sympathetic but explained there wasn't anything we could do. It picked up a little after leaving London - enough so I ordered a hot meal - but approaching Ashford International station in Kent the driver explained we were going to make an unscheduled stop there while they attempted to fix a "mechanical problem".

I was watching the clock noting that I had a 20 minute window to make the connection to Lyon and that was fast closing. The others seemed more worried than I was but I figured I was on vacation and there was nothing I could do so I should just go with the flow.

All the food was taken away from us which was an ominous sign. The woman from Manchester - Betty - was most annoyed about not getting a cup of coffee so I taunted her with an outrageous French accent saying: "Ah neooo coffee for yoo. You have ad enouf!"

After about ten minutes of witty repartee with my travel companions - overlooking the lull when Richard informed everyone he was American and he lived in Texas (he might as well have said he was prisoner on day release) - the driver announced the train could not proceed, but that in 10 minutes time a train coming from France would be able to be swapped for our dodgy train to continue the journey to Lille. It is okay for the train to limp along in England with no air-conditioning but they don't want it limping in the chunnel or in France - which is probably a good thing.

As we alight the conversation went something like:
Betty:Oh aren't we all being terribly British about this, just not minding all the inconvenience.
Paul:Well actually I am Australian..
Richard:Isn't that sorta the same thing?

I wondered about that. Later that night French news played scenes of Australians distressed over the fact that some woman who was found with 4kg of dope on her, was sent to jail for 20 years. One woman was particularly hysterical that the girl won't be able to have children. At this point I realised as an Australian I wasn't getting hysterical enough.

But back to Ashford International Station. Waiting on the platform for the replacement train seemed to take forever. And then the people on the train seemed reluctant to leave - it could have been that some were still eating lunch. But Betty and I kept telling the people as they alighted that they would love our train - nice and cosy and warm. And they would enjoy the Kent countryside all that extra since the train could not reach top speed...

Finally on board and realising that my train to Lyon had departed Lille already I knew that it was going to be a longer night than planned. There was no coffee on the new train, but the airconditioning worked and they kept handing out the fruit juice.

Finally arriving a Lille an hour later, I bid farewell to my travel companions and told them this was definitely one of the more memorable trips.

I just assumed that trains from Lille to Lyon were a dime a dozen - or at least there were several ways to get to Lyon - and it turned out there was. It didn't help however that it was a hot day in France on Friday and tempers were short, sweat marks were long and I had to get downgraded to second class on the leg from Lille to Paris. Everyone was given a card to explain their rights for compensation however so I figured I can deal with that little matter later. Right now I am on vacation.

I arrived at Lyon at midnight practically and found that the metro had already shut down. Unperturbed I hopped on a tram which sort of took me in the right direction. I got a taxi for the last half kilometre since by then I just wanted to sleep...

But don't let that deter you from travelling on the Eurostar. It is fabulous and so relaxing (particularly when there is air conditioning and the trains run on time which is the usual case)... And travelling 1st class is the best way to go... As I can attest on my return journey... The story continues...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Scenes from Oxford Circus Thursday 19:49 - shopping et cetera... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

News: Crime's up and Prats are down

The yellow signs that pop up around London at the scenes of recent crimes are to be reviewed after they have been attributed to increasing fear of crime across the city. Perhaps they shouldn't always have in bold letters "MURDER" "STABBING" "GUN CRIME" emblazoned across them... And the text of the boards "A gruesome bloody murder took place at this location last night..." Perhaps should be reviewed. Ok it doesn't usually say that on the boards, but you can read between the lines (and use your immagination with these things...

And from crimes on the street to crimes against the city, it has almost been a week of posturing and hissy fits between the South Bank Centre and the endless number of supporters lining up for the London Eye which the Centre has threatened with closure (as the Eye sits on part of the South Bank Centre's land), Ken Livingstone has called South Bank Centre Chair a prat. Well I guess that is the equivalent of a public slap in the face. It was too bad he didn't use the word "bitch" as well. It all is a little confusing really. It seems that there is no chance of the Eye closing, well at least over this incident...

Film: Ismail Merchant

Tonight the news broke that film director and producer Ismail Merchant passed away. With partner James Ivory the two have made history as the most enduring film partnership ever... Gay or straight... Well there will always be A Room With A View and Howard's End... And that saucy film Maurice...

Scenes from the Piccadilly Theatre Tuesday 20:16... House full again... Posted by Hello
News: Bargains

It's true, you can really get a shoebox in Central London for £135-a-week as a former cupboard goes back on the rental market... The previous occupant was small... And didn't spend too many nights at home...
Musical: Guys and Dolls and Ewan

Last night I caught a preview of the Donmar's production of Guys and Dolls The Musical staring Ewan McGregor, Jane Krakowski, Douglas Hodge and Jenna Russell. It wasn't until I got to the theatre and noticed the "house full" sign up that I realised what may lie in store...

While they had only been playing in front of an audience since last Thursday, to describe this show as sensational would have to be an understatement. What sets it apart from the other star vehicles that have come to the West End, is that this is a great piece of music theatre. People were actually enjoying the music as well. Afterall a show with songs such as "Luck be a Lady" "A Bushel and A Peck" "I've Never Been In Love Before" and "Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat" is a bit hard not to like. Especially with lyrics such as:

Marry the man today
Give him the girlish laughter
Give him your hand today
And save the fist for after. - Marry The Man Today

You can spray her wherever you figure there's streptococci lurk
You can give her a shot for whatever's she's got, but it just won't work
If she's tired of getting the fish eye from the hotel clerk
A person can develop a cold. - Adelaide's Lament

Ask me how do I feel, ask me now that we're fondly caressing
Well, if I were a salad I know I'd be splashing my dressing - If I Were A Bell

Of note:
  • The audience probably weren't all there for Frank Loesser's music and lyrics (written back in 1950). Ewan McGregor as Sky Masterson had the charisma and the voice to carry it off. Is he as good to see from the fourth row as he is on screen? The answer would have to be yes... And it is worth noting that it isn't the easiest of roles to take on either - singing songs with a Noo Yawk accent where the notes are all over the place...
  • Of course it is the role of Nathan Detroit that normally gets top billing, but Douglas Hodge had to settle for third. He was great and when Ewan and Jane Krakowski are ahead of you, who could complain? Doug's blog also details the reason for the inclusion of an additional number called "Adelaide" in the first act. Apparently Loesser wrote it for the film and it was up to Mrs Loesser who attended the first preview to agree to whether it would stay or go. It was still in last night...
  • Krakowski was fantastic and got all the all the laughs as Miss Adelaide. Jenna Russell as Sarah Brown was billed fourth and she was fabulous, but it was a crime the awful wig they made her wear as part of the "Save A Soul" troupe. Sure she had to look uptight, but surely she didn't have to look that bad??
  • It wasn't just the star power that got people through the show. The rest of the cast were exceptional. While the leads will get their raves when the reviews come out in a few weeks, a special mention has to be given to "Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat" in the second act performed by Martyn Ellis as Nicely Nicely Johnson. This number stopped the show. And it stopped the show for several minutes. As hard as the cast tried to continue with the show the audience just wouldn't shut up screaming and cheering after the number. In a way the outburst of appreciation had been building up all evening (especially after "Luck Be a Lady" and the crapshooters dance in the second act) that the audience just had to orgasm at this point for its own sake and it didn't stop until everyone had got it out of their system.
  • My knowledge of Guys and Dolls prior to last night extended to a copy of the 1992 Broadway revival (with Nathan Lane) and having endured the Frank Sinatra / Marlon Brando Movie. The former made the show a cartoon and the latter embalmed it. This production seems to have got the balance just right. The music was slower, the orchestrations were richer, and it seemed to be just the thing...
  • Since the rest of the show was so good, you could start thinking about the costumes and the set and the like. The set struck me initially as a leftover from the Donmar's production of Grand Hotel but I was thankfully proven wrong. There wasn't a great deal of over-the-top colour in this production but it was clear there had been a conscientious choice to bring the production back to some level of reality. Afterall the characters were gamblers and strippers based on the stories of Daymon Runyon
  • You know you haven't just seen an ordinary show when the queue for autographs outside the stage door at the end of the show is over 100 people and there were two security guards on duty to keep everything under control... Well a week earlier he was in Leicester Square opening that movie where he cuts off Anakin Skywalker's legs and arms...
  • The show is booking until March 2006. Ewan McGregor has signed up for a couple of months and I suspect his run will have practically sold out, but for me the show and the production was the star. If they are as good as they are after less than a week of previews, in a few months...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Scenes from the Jubilee Bridge Saturday 18:51. London Eye and Shell Building in the background Posted by Hello

Scenes from the South Bank Saturday 18:59 - woman in black dress on bike Posted by Hello
Theatre: Blood and guts at Theatre of Blood

Caught Theatre of Blood last night at the National Theatre with Jim Broadbent as the lead. It is based on an old Vincent Price / Diana Rigg film where a ham actor Edward Lionheart seeks revenge on all the critics that have savaged him over the years by locking them in an old abandoned theatre and doing away with them one by one. The murders are committed in the style of murders that appear in Shakespeare's texts. The selected texts were also the plays Lionheart performed in his final season of Shakespeare before jumping to his death from a critics appartment after he was overlooked for a drama award... Or so it seemed...

It is gruesome and very black comedy including:

  • When the first critic is disposed of in the style of Julius Caesar, blood showers out all over the stage... Most of the audience laughed at this sight
  • Shylock this time takes his pound of flesh by removing the heart of another (it's just over a pound until he squeezes it and the blood that drains makes it just right)
  • When one critic arrives with two poodles you just know that something truly awful is going to happen to the three of them. And it does...

A very fun and black night. But the play has also been updated to make a few in-jokes and barbs at the National Theatre itself. There is the argument put forward by Lionheart that the soon-to-be-built government theatre on the south bank of the Thames (the play is set in the 1970s as the building is being constructed) will take all the fun and life out of the theatre and become something that is deemed good for you... "Instead of the delicious illicit tang of the betting shop or brothel it had the sanctimonious cultural cache of a collective confessional" Lionhart moans.

The contrast between the grand and lavish theatres of long gone and the concrete constructions of present day are obvious and not just in the play. The West End with all its old and aging theatres is another world away from the concrete construction of the National. It is awfully functional and nowadays it seems impossible to imagine of the arts existing without government subsidies and funding... But once upon a time they did... Those days (just like overripe interpretations of Shakespeare) are long gone...

But nostalgia aside, this co-production with theatre company Improbable provides thrills and a hint of nostalgia, and a delightfully awful performance by Broadbent. It is fascinating to watch an actor, play a bad actor playing Shakespeare very badly... Now you don't often see that...

Scenes from Bloomsbury 13:42. Clamping and PCNs Posted by Hello
Overheard at a Soho Bar:

Man in tight white shirt: So what happened to your date?
Man in dark stripey shirt: Well it was going okay and then I said something about where he lived and he got all offended...
Man in tight white shirt: Oh that's a shame... Where does he live?
Man in dark stripey shirt: Chelsea...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Catching up

Caught up with a former work colleague from Australia today. Over lunch discussed various sundry issues and gossip including:
  • Had I stayed in my old job I would now be out of a job as the office is being shut down. Well there was no chance of that happening but it is nice to have it reaffirmed that every now and then one can make the right choice in life...
  • It was a cold day today. I needed to have this pointed out to me as I work on the 10 deg rule. If it is above 10 deg then I am not cold, even if it is windy or wet.
  • There is a difference between a café laté and a skinny flat white. The latter is not sold here but I had suggested that there was no real difference in London between the two, until ordering coffee after lunch proved me wrong.
  • Swapping notes on the various artsy things we had seen. I pointed out that I was going to see On The Town again tonight as I had seen it previously in preview, and in the cheap seats. Had a much smarter seat in the stalls second time around so one could see Aaron Lazar, Caroline O'Connor and Adam Garcia much better...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Scenes from Tottenham Court Road 22:36 - Billboard replacement works... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Random acts of kindness
  • On the tube on Sunday a woman took her shoes off and was moaning about the blisters they had given her to her partner. Suddenly from across the car a woman appeared with two band-aids and gave them to her. She then returned back to her seat...
  • On Monday a woman ran into the car of F while it was parked on the street. The woman left a note detailing her insurance, registration details and a contact number.
  • Tonight a woman asked me while I was grabbing a bite to eat whether she minded if she smoked. I said "No of course not!" Asking if I minded really constitutes as an apology since so many light up without asking if anybody cared...
So life isn't always bad in the big bad city...
News: When the Hoff Drops in

David Hasselhoff, star at large drops in at a Brixton pub last Saturday when they have a night called the Hasselhoff Scandal. The pub was disappointed that he is now favouring dance music to his old tunes, but there was general concensus that "the Hoff" is cool...

Scenes from Notting Hill Gate 22:07 - Eastbound Circle Line Posted by Hello
News: Shocking news on the tube

A power surge this evening bought most of the Tube network down... London travelers can take heart however, as it was confirmed today that it is healthier to travel by tube than to travel aboveground. Sure there are particles, but they're made of iron not carbon... so that's all okay then...

Conversation on the tube as Central line train pulls into Tottenham Court Road

Driver (on speaker): The Northern Line has severe delays southbound due to a power surge. Customers are advised to seek alternate routes...
Confused man sitting next to Paul: Excuse me... What about the Northern line?
Paul:Well the southbound Northern line is out, but the northbound Northern line is still heading north

At this point I quickly make my way out of Tottenham Court Road thinking that there is something for just numbering your metro lines...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

News: Piano Man

Big in the news tonight is the unfolding story of a man found on a beach in Kent who can't speak, but can play the piano. And he plays it very well. His clothing seemed to indicate that he was a concert pianist, but reports that he did not have any clothing tags have added to the mystery. Is he an illegal immigrant who removed the tags to confuse the authorities, or is he someone who shops for vintage clothing? Comparisons have been made to David Helfgott...
News: The Sith is the betht... Byo lightsaber

You know it is going to be one of those nights when you see people walking around Tottenham Court Road carrying light sabers. They obviously had been at Leicester Square for the Mega Star Wars premiere, complete with Darth Vader and a bevy of stormtroopers. Ooh ahh! As tempting as the thought was to be to take a look at the freaks er fans, I decided to go to the gym instead.

As for the movie, the Guardian panned it, but hinted that the movie may become a camp favourite liking Hayden Christensen's performance in going to the dark side to Princess Diana's performance on TV - head down, looking up through lowered brows and all... It would have to be worth the price of admission just to see that...

Bobbies and Stormtroopers clash at Leicester Square here...

Overheard at the gym tonight

Muscle Mary (on phone): Oh yes... Yes. Yes yes yes. Yeasss. Yes. Yes. Yes. Ah no.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Scenes from Cnr Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street Sunday 20:25 - on break... Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Scenes from outside the British Museum Saturday 14:41 - No parking... Posted by Hello
Musical: Mary Poppins - supercalisassystarturn

The opportunity came up to see Mary Poppins The Musical Friday night so I took it. Now that Billy Elliot has opened it will lose some of its "must see" status no doubt, but it is a very classy show (well, classy for something that is part music hall, part panto and part dance musical) using some of the best talent in the UK. Of note:
  • This was a dark and sassy Mary Poppins. Laura Michelle Kelly as the lead was quite sinister dispensing with a nasty nanny, and also siccing the children's toys on them when they annoyed her. The latter must have led to the warning against bringing very young children to the theatre, but for a show that clocks up three hours, there should be another warning that only children on Ritalin would last that long without getting bored.
  • Kelly's performance however is great and it is easy to see how people are finally seeing her as the next big thing. When she isn't on the stage however, it isn't as much fun, the character of the parents are just annoying, and the cook and the servant are meant to provide the comic relief but strain to do so.
  • The show is not a duplication of the movie as it also goes back to the original stories of PJ Travers. Apart from making the story a lot darker (and at times less coherent) it enables things such as the animated sequences in the park being replaced by dancing statues.
  • New songs have been written and the old ones have been adapted (and lyrics completely replaced). This makes for a much better musical story, although alas "Sister Suffragette" (among others) gets cut...
  • No musical nowadays is complete without one cast member flying off into the wings. This time, there was a half-baked excuse since Mary is supposed to fly, and so she did... Three times. Each time the audience applauded, and loudest the last time as she flew over some of the audience in the stalls as she left Cherry Tree Lane for good. Nothing like an actor suspended by cables to get the punters excited. They do it in Billy Elliot too (for some reason).
  • The other big event is in the second act number "Step in Time" when Gavin Lee tapdances upside down on the proscenium. Tap dancing upside down is probably something that won't catch on as much as flying about the stage, but it fitted with the story and again got the punters awfully excited.
After a while it is easy to get jaded with all these theatrical tricks and quality shows... But for £50 you get your money's worth of thrills in this show. Now if future revisions trim it a little here and there it will be even better... It no doubt has a long future ahead of it...

Scenes from Bloomsbury 14:32 - Outside UCL a parking warden works... Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 14, 2005

News: Not the glass

Camden Town is one of those areas of London where people confuse threats to personal safety, petty crime and crack users on the streets for gritty urban chic. It is a fine place if you want to get a bong or a t-shirt, but not for much else. So the people who sell the tat at the famous Camden Markets are none too impressed by a new glass tower, which threatens to introduce more high street chain stores into the area. Of course you can never have too many high street chain stores...
Movie: Palindromes

Saw Palindromes this week. As a Todd Solondz movie it was not surprising that it was a story about a 12 year old girl who falls pregnant and is forced to have an abortion by her parents. But then she goes on a journey involving abortion doctor killers, strange freaks and killers. Sort of a modern day Grimms fairy tale... Apparently... It did take a while to make sense of it all, particularly as the lead girl kept changing along with the lighting and quality of the camerawork. The best thing about the movie however was the poster, which first caught my eye after seeing the play at the Kings Head earlier this week...
News: Hitting home...

Mild hysteria erupted this week over reports that a craze that started in the dreadful bowels of all things evil - South London - now is spreading nation wide. It is called Happy Slapping and involves teenagers ganging up on an individual and hitting them, while taking photos of the victim with their mobile phones, before running off into the sunset, to post the pictures on the internet. It's supposed to be a new form of techno-bullying, but Does 'happy slapping' exist?. Well if it does, it is bound to spread to every mild-manered unsuspecting town in the near future...

Billy Elliotopened this week at the Victoria Palace to amazing reviews and some declaring it one of the best shows ever...

And finally, Kath and Kim premiered on BBC2 Thursday night. For those in the know (and with Sky), it has been broadcast for the past year here but now it is on free-to-air television it is getting a much broader audience. I suspect it will do well here, and it made the pick of the day in many newspaper TV reviews. I keep telling people that it is exactly how Australians live - although Melbournians wear darker colours usually - and aren't so much into shoulder pads anymore...

Potato, potato; pasta, pasta; plaque, plaque
Speaking of accents, noice and unewsual... I have found...
You don't say:
I'm having Paahsta for lunch
You say:
I'm having Passta for lunch
But I still say paaahsta. In fact, now I say paaaaaaaaaaaaahsta because it gets such a reaction... My colleagues make allowances for foreigners though...

Overheard at Goodge St Tube:

Man #1: I have to go to Peterborough tomorrow.
Man #2: Horrible place full of chavs. But it has a Cathedral...
Man #1: ...And a John Lewis...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Theatre: A patch of blue

Last week I decided to claim credit for F voting for the first time (it was all that incessant chatting about political processes that did it), so this week I taking credit for getting F and A to the Kings Head Theatre to see A Patch of Blue. I pointed out that apart from being a culturally enriching outing, we would be supporting one of the few surviving theatre pubs in London, before Wetherspoons or some other antiseptic chain moved in and took away its character and turned the theatre space into a restaurant… Well it may not get like that just yet, but the theatre's long-term future is hardly certain.

Anyway back to the play. It was originally a book, then a film with Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters about a blind girl living in an abusive home meeting a black man and falling in love. Oh and it is the Deep South (America). The end result wasn't as predictable as all the situation might have alluded to however. The acting was also terrific which helped give everything some credibility…

The staging wasn't bad for the confined space of the theatre either. Although there were two issues I had:

  1. There was an extended sequence at the beginning where the blind girl is raped. It probably wasn't necessary to inflict the small audience with two minutes of screaming and rape… but we got it anyway…
  2. Towards the end of the first act, a clap of thunder which was part of the story had me jumping out of my seat and exclaiming "Jeeeezus", much to the amusement of F and A. In a desperate effort to regain some dignity, I tried to explain that I was just getting caught up in the drama but they didn't buy it.

Leaving the theatre I asked F and A if they were glad they went. There was general agreement that it was worth the effort, although F thought that the poster made the lead far more attractive than he was in real life. I disagreed suggesting that if there was a problem it was because he wore the same shirt and trousers throughout the play and we didn't get a good perspective of his range. A commented that as she prefers café au lait men more anyway she wasn't in a position to make a final call on this…

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Scenes from Tottenham Court Road Tube 22:00 - Late night sandwich-in-a-box. I think it was creamed meats... I don't know how people can eat that shit... but they do... Posted by Hello
News: VE Day - Mit a bang, mit a boom

Sunday night was the BBC extravaganza in Trafalgar Square to commemorate VE Day 60th anniversary. As big extravaganzas go it was entertaining, although jumping in the fountains was not re-enacted - it was too cold. Meanwhile the German ambassador has suggested the country is obsessed with Nazis. Well at least West End producers and members of the Royal Family perhaps... Of course the impact of the war still looms large in the city. I walk past two bomb shelters on the way to the tube...

Monday, May 09, 2005

Scenes from the DLR Sunday 19:04: the view from the front of the train... Posted by Hello

Scenes from Canary Wharf Sunday 18:20: After a spot of shopping it is time to go home... Posted by Hello

Scenes from WC1 Saturday 14:56: Cleaning up the street... Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Cabaret: Janie Dee

Caught Janie Dee in concert tonight. She is an awfully talented singer, dancer, actor from the British stage and it seemed like various odd sorts of theatre types came out of the woodwork to see her perform at the Shaw Theatre. The Shaw Theatre is just around the corner from where I live so it was very handy to get to...

Her choice of music was varied and often was new music. Some of it was worth hearing as well. She also premiered a new Andrew Lloyd-Webber song "All the love I have". Well the music has been around for a while - I have the previous version on CD - it was just given new lyrics and a different orchestration (apparently this counts for a new song). But aside from an unfortunate foray into Ave Maria and a song called "No-one believes in a Mermaid" it was a great evening.

Overheard at the Theatre Friday night:

Old Luvvie (to female companion): Well there are three men who are very talented who are vying for the leadership so the Jewish one with the immigrant parents had to do something.
Politics in Britain... The little things that are different

Its a bit gay (except for the BNP)
Stayed up late on Thursday night watching the election results (as one does, although I wasn't wearing an anorak)... Fell asleep at one point in front of the television only to wake up to see lovable Schools Minister and Member for Enfield and Southgate Stephen Twigg concede defeat. He looked very glum. It was a bit of a shock. Mainly because I was so close to the television and I woke up and saw his glum face in widescreen. I certainly wasn't expecting to see that. I sort of met Twigg at the start of this year (I was in the same room he was and he was talking to a friend of mine briefly). My brush with a man with a red box. Smart man, in politics and openly gay. Being gay and in politics in Britain is expected as politics is pretty gay. And with all those Westminster traditions you can't get much gayer than the oldest democracy of them all.

People here can't believe it when I tell them that you can't be openly gay and in politics in Australia. Well at least not in a major party. I tell them you can wear smart suits and dabble in the Arts, but that's as far as it goes. You must have a show wife, force her to live upstairs from you, trot her out for photo ops, then dump her when you are defeated... Whereas at this election in Brighton, all three candidates were gay and trying to outgay themselves. The Tories were playing up just how gay they really were too...

Paxman takes on the grub
There was much talk today about Jeremy Paxman's "interview" of George Galloway. Journalists here love to be antagonistic, but Paxman is the best at this sort of interview. Galloway ran in the East End against black (and Jewish) New Labour Oona King. This electorate has a high proporion of Muslims and so he made it a referendum on the war in Iraq. It was a grubby and bitter campaign so it was nice to hear Paxman start the interview by asking: "Mr Galloway, are you proud of having got rid of one of the very few black women in Parliament?"

Tactical voting
You are elected by a first past the post system here so voters have learned how to vote tactically - and vote for the person most likely to defeat a candidate - even if that means Labour voters who didn't like Blair ending up voting Tory... Backingblair.co.uk describes the process.

Political tv advertising
It doesn't exist. And the debate seems a bit more intelligent for not having it.

When is a 60 seat margin still not good enough?
When you have a core of 30-40 MPs in your own party who will vote against you at (almost) every turn. They are old Labour, and very few of them lost last night. The new parliament will be very different from the last...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Scenes from Covent Garden 21:35. Polls close at 10pm and people work through to 3am to complete the count... so Friday is a quiet day for many! At 00:35 the swing is on and many Labour MPs will be out before the dawn... Exit polls are projecting a loss of 100 seats for Labour and a majority reduced to 66 seats... Swings against Labour are between 4-6%.but it is early in the evening (only 01:50)...  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Concert: Barenboim plays Bach

Sunday Afternoon caught Daniel Barenboim playing Bach's Preludes and Fugues from Book 1 of 'Das wohltemperite Clavier'. Translated that is "the well-tempered keyboard". The first hour were numbers 1-12, then after intermission there were 13-24.

It was a sellout concert given Barenboim's mega-star status. There was a long queue waiting in vain for returns. Inside the hall, it was just him, the Steinway and the preludes and fugues.

On stage there was magic. There was also a bit of tapping and fancy footwork, which initially was a bit distracting. The hands may do the hard work, but the rest of his body seemed to be locked in a constant struggle with the counterpoint. I didn't have the best vantage point and wished I was sitting on the other side so I could see his hands (rather than the body of the piano) but I guess you can't have everything...

He has just released a CD of this as well, which he was signing at the end of the concert. I assume that with the amount of tapping onstage that he must have worn shoes with rubber soles in the recording studio.

I do think there is a limit to the amount of Bach one can take in in an afternoon and during the second half of the concert my mind began to wander. Scanning the audience I noticed that I wasn't the only one getting restless as there was some serious fidgeting and moving about going on. Running into a colleague from work after the concert there was agreement with this sentiment. I had to go home and listen to something less pretty and complex. So I passed on the signing of his new CD, leaving hundreds of others waiting in line...

And then...

During the Bach concert while my mind was wandering I decided that I would give the memorial service for D that was on today in London a miss. There is nothing like Bach to get your mind straight and your thoughts in order...

Scenes from the Barbican Sunday 14:43. There were plenty of punters out for the sun and the food in the concrete and brown tiled area overlooking the artificial ponds. The ponds act as a sound barrier as the circle line runs directly below it. Only a small portion of the Barbican residential area is seen here, but in the glorious sun it can be seen in its ghastly speldour... Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Musical: Acorn Antiques!

Caught Victoria Wood's Musical based on her popular (and very much loved) sketch-show last night at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Acorn Antiques the soap was about two sisters who ran an antique store in Manchesterford. Mrs Overall (who is working class and from Birmingham) is the help and makes the tea and macaroons while dealing with her osteo-arthritis. It was a parody of soaps full of bad acting, missed cues, ludicrous intrigue and all things awfully British...

Julie Walters plays Mrs Overall, Celia Imre, Duncan Preston, Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey and Sally Anne Triplett also star. And it was directed by Trevor Nunn.

The Musical picks up after the unceremonious axing of the show, after it was unable to compete with the likes of Celebrity Breast Implants From Hell. The principals have been reunited to turn the soap into a musical at the Enoch Powell Arts Centre in Sutton Coldfield. Their careers are in a tailspin so they resort to turning Acorn Antiques into an opera where the store is threatened by controlled parking zones and general urban decay. It is during the rehearsals when Julie Walter's character (who plays Mrs Overall) wins the lotto and uses her winnings to take it to the West End with a much happier storyline (Mrs Overall is the focus) - and more songs and dancing. So cue act two.

For a show that is almost two musicals in one it was hilarious - as funny as anything playing at the moment. Knowing some of the references from the sketch show would help, and at times it was like being in the audience of a sit-com with everyone breaking out into applause when the stars entered, but Julie Walters gives a star turn and it was worth seeing just alone for her amazing performance. She sings, she dances, wears a pinnie, has a hump and varicose veins and still manages to make the tea and macaroons.

While it has been a sellout (with a spare ticket here or there such as front row last night that I snapped up) it is a pity that it will close this month when Julie Walters contract runs out as they had trouble recasting. Perhaps it could return in the near future in a running time under three hours (and one musical rather than two)...

Then again, when the top price ticket is £65 (a new record for the West End) maybe the punters deserve quantity and quality for that price... Definitely a musical curiosity piece. Oh and at the box office you could also purchase Acorn Antiques rubber washing up gloves - aprons too - although no pinnies... Still a nice merchandising touch I thought...

And then...

Caught up with A after the show for drinks. A few hours later we were having a rather early vegetarian breakfast in Soho (I think it was 3am) and I attracted the attention of a passer-by and his friend. How I did this I am not quite sure as I had consumed a few Becks by this time. There seemed to be interest in either me or the grilled tomato, beans and toast, but they didn't join us for the meal. Later we saw him having coffee and a conversation ensued. It turned out the two were from Oxfordshire, in a relationship, and looking for a special guest star for the evening. I said that was lovely and wished them luck. So it all happens in Soho late at night... or doesn't... But it's always nice to meet strange and interesting new people...

Scenes from Seven Dials Covent Garden Saturday 17:27. As it was over 20degrees this weekend, the punters were out en masse...  Posted by Hello

Scenes from Millbank 20:49 - Tate Gallery and Millbank Tower Posted by Hello
Overheard at the Tate Friday Night:

Man with a woman (to woman #2):Edith has been here once before, but she was sixteen and it was with the nuns...

Art: Turner, Whistler & Monet

Finally caught the blockbuster at the Tate on Friday night of Turner, Whistler and Monet. A room full of Monet's paintings of the Houses of Parliament and of Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross were worth the price of admission. I always have thought Monet's paintings of the Palace of Westminster capture it far better than any photograph. The purpose of the exhibition was to highlight how all three artists explored light and atmosphere in landscapes. A blockbuster exhibition that was well worth the visit...

And then later...

Caught up with M&M for Friday night drinks. A long day and nearly two hours at an exhibition took its toll. Left them both at G-A-Y around 2am. I got a text from M1 Saturday saying:
End a bit of a blur again. Not only did I end up with a Brazilian in my bed but a can of Strongbow on my shelf in the fridge
To which I replied:
I am assuming you mean boy not wax
Well hey, both are a dime-a-dozen in London...

Conversations: Soho and rough parts of town

During the course of Friday evening the following was part of a conversation that took place with two New Yorkers:
Mike: Tom wants to go to The Hoist but the concierge of our very nice hotel says that we shouldn't go there as it is in a rough part of town.
Paul: You are obviously staying at the wrong hotel if the concierge says that. You need to stay at a dodgy one so you can get advice on the dodgy venues.
Tom: So what is open in Soho after 2am?
Paul: Fuck all
Mike: Oh "Fuck All"... I didn't see that venue in the press?
Paul: Yeah it's new so you may not have it in your Spartacus guide...

And so on and so on and so on...